Thousands of people visited George Floyd Square on May 25, 2021 for “Rise & Remember,” a day-long event to honor George Floyd’s life and legacy on the one-year anniversary of his death.
Hosted by the George Floyd Global Memorial (GFGM), with support from Mr. Floyd’s family and the GFS community, it was a day of reflection and protest, calls for justice, community gathering and celebration - with art, free food, an open mic and an evening concert that ended with riveting performances by Sounds of Blackness and surprise special guest Common.
The event, which filled the four blocks of 38th and Chicago and drew people from all over the country, was made possible by the community that has grown out of the occupation of George Floyd Square. Nine days later, the city of Minneapolis Public Works, assisted by Agape Movement through its contract, removed and repositioned concrete barricades at the Square, opening it up to vehicular traffic (see related articles on the concert and memorial quilts).
Floyd family thanks community
Gathered at the fist sculpture in the afternoon, George “Perry” Floyd’s aunt, Angela Harrelson, and cousin, Paris Stevens, both GFGM board members, thanked the community and introduced members of Perry’s family who had traveled from out of state (two Floyd family members sang during the evening concert – Aunt Laura “Jackie” Stevens sang “We Shall Overcome,” and Uncle “Ike” Floyd sang a song he wrote, “Justice is Served.”).
“This year has been a trying time for all of us, our family and for the community. The community has been here since Day One keeping this place sacred and welcoming for anyone who comes from all over the world. And we thank you… What has taken place here is just amazing… You are all our community. You all are a representation of how other cities should act,” said Stevens. Stevens called the event a celebration of life – to remember Perry (how George Floyd’s family refers to him) but also to celebrate each other. “We have to be there for one another. We can’t talk about justice and have our knee on our own neck. So continue to come together, love on one another, speak your voice. Everyone has a voice. However you want to protest, fight for justice, use your voice.”
Many shared their stories at the open mic. Minnesota Teen Activists, whose mission is to be “boots on the ground wherever the community needs us” and who also had a booth at the event, said youth are the future of the movement.
“Anybody can come [to George Floyd Square], but if you’re not for the people, don’t show up,” said one activist. “And y’all showed up, ‘cause y’all for the people.”
Quilts, murals and art
At the Say Their Names Cemetery at the start of the Rise & Remember event, artist Sidney Brodie (at right) presented Floyd family members with his memorial quilt, onto which he had added a square with the name George Floyd. Begun after two-year-old Shaquanna Attwater was fatally shot in 1994 in Durham, North Carolina, the quilt now bears the names of 1,500 people lost to violence.
More quilts were in the making in the Square, with materials offered by Million Artist Movement, whose canopy was draped with quilt squares collected at 38th and Chicago during the uprising last year. Paige Reynolds and Signe Harriday called the quilt a “living archive,” explaining that creating a quilt square provides a space to grieve and a means to pause and share.
“It’s those little sharings that are the stitches that build our community, and I think it’s our community that’s going to keep us safe, it’s the community that’s going to heal us, it’s the community that has the answers for how to love each other,” said Harriday. “But if we don’t make connections, take time to stitch our relationships together, we can’t hold the expansiveness of what our community is."
Some of the plywood art murals from the uprising collected by Save the Boards and Memorialize the Movement, were displayed side by side on Chicago Ave. – an extension of an exhibit the previous weekend (see more online).
Elsewhere in the Square, Raycurt Johnson played his violin, kids of all ages made giant soap bubbles, speakers grabbed megaphones and led chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Say His Name: George Floyd.” KMOJ DJs had people dancing in the street, and those who wanted to try their hand at pitching a fast ball, did so – at a dunk tank. Twin Cities Relief grilled chicken on site and provided free full meals to anyone who wanted one. Snacks, water and other free beverages were also available, and pop-up shops and information tables lined the Square.
The GFS Justice Task Force gave out stickers and buttons with information about ending qualified immunity (#8 of the 24 demands in Justice Resolution 001).
“We’re here to educate people on yet another thing that prevents police accountability,” said volunteer Mikki VanEps. Qualified immunity (QI) protects officers from civil lawsuits unless the officer is in violation of a “clearly established” law – meaning the identical circumstances are present in a previous court ruling. Advocates have been calling to end QI at the federal and state level. The GFS Task Force is exploring ways to introduce a city ordinance that ends QI in Minneapolis, similar to a law New York City passed in April 2021.
*Find more quotes and stories of the people involved by scrolling through the photos and cutlines.